Blues ownership has rejected an offer of $167 million to buy the franchise and is seeking a $190 million purchase price, according to the group that says it made the unsuccessful bid.
Calgary businessman Max Chambers told the Post-Dispatch today that he was "surprised" the Blues didn’t accept his all-cash offer, which was made on July 2, and he believes the current asking price is too high. In 2010, Forbes Magazine valued the franchise at $165 million.
"The offer of $167 (million) was my maximum," Chambers said. "We think that’s the most they’ve been offered. Obviously they haven’t been offered $190 because $190 was the figure to take it off the auction block. I don’t think anyone has over-topped our offer of $167.
"I think $190 is a little aggressive with the value of the franchise. We felt $167 was aggressive, so their counter at $190 was real aggressive in our view."
A message for Blues chairman Dave Checketts left through a spokesman with his company, SCP Worldwide, wasn't immediately returned.
Chambers, who is CEO of Sonoma Equities and Great Northern Capital Partners, indicated that his investment group, which includes former NHL players Bryan Trottier and Bernie Nicholls, remains interested in buying the Blues. But Chambers said that he’s uncertain where Game Plan LLC, the firm conducting the sale, stands in the process.
"I don’t know what state the process is in right now. Does anyone?" Chambers said. "I mean, I can’t get an answer from Game Plan what the number is. What is the real number? You guys are throwing $190 out. You got $167 from us and I think the next bid is what … $120-130?"
The Post-Dispatch has reported that the Blues have received offers from two other groups and both were rejected. Club minority owner Tom Stillman made an initial offer of $110 million and later made a second offer that was "in the same neighborhood," according to sources. Chicago businessman Matthew Hulsizer also made a bid, according to a source, but his offer was not disclosed.
SCP Worldwide, Checketts' company, has an outstanding loan of approximately $120 million with Citigroup.
"What surprises me is one of the minority partners (Stillman), who knows what the debt load is, his bid is less than what the debt load is at (Citigroup)," Chambers said. "It made me double-check what the hell we were doing. OK, have we missed something here, because usually we don’t?"
In the past, Chambers’ group has shown interest in both the Phoenix Coyotes and the Los Angeles Kings, including an unsuccessful offer to buy the Kings last year. Chambers said that he was pointed toward the Blues by Trottier, who won six Stanley Cups with the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins and one as an assistant coach in Colorado.
"Owning a hockey team has always been one of my goals in life," Chambers said. St. Louis "was Trottier’s first choice. He’s a ring pig and he wants to get his eighth (Stanley Cup) ring in St. Louis."
"Looking at the market, St. Louis is attractive because I think they can win, the market is solid … it’s consistent … and that appeals. St. Louis is a market I’d feel comfortable raising my family, where I can’t say that about every other city in the league."
Chambers said that Blues fans should have no concerns about moving the team.
"St. Louis is not a franchise that is movable," he said. "There are other franchises in the league that need to be fixed before St. Louis is moved."
If he were able to purchase the Blues, Chambers indicated that he would sink more money into the payroll. The club’s payroll for the upcoming season is approximately $52 million.
"I think the Blues, with $8-10 million more, a legitimate Cup contender, not just a playoff team," he said. "The only reason we would want to buy a team is to win a Stanley Cup. We would commit whatever resources it takes – financial and personnel – to get there."
Chambers said that his offer of $167 million is still on the table, but he doesn’t know how much it longer it will stand.
"If we were to be accepted at $167 in the (next) 10 business days, we would be in position to pay for the franchise," he said. "But now we would end up taking it during the season instead of before the season.
"It’s real tough to make some of the changes (in the middle of the season), so you could be a in a situation for eight or nine months, not being able to implement some of the changes that you need to get it going in your direction. This process is going to be a lot longer than everyone thinks it is. But at some point, we’ll keep moving on and doing our business, but we’re not going to be there forever."
In July, Checketts received an extension on his $120 million loan with Citigroup and multiple sources have told the Post-Dispatch that the next deadline is Sept. 30. It’s possible that Checketts, along with the NHL, could negotiate another extension. If not, and if the Blues haven’t reached a purchase agreement with a buyer, there could be severe ramifications that aren’t known at this point.
"It doesn’t seem to be lighting any fire under his pants to get a deal done," Chambers said. "Checketts or none of these guys have said, ‘OK, we’re interested,’ so I don’t know. I guess the Sept. 30 deadline isn’t a hard deadline for them, or they feel they can extend it."